Resisting Oppression: The use of Aboriginal writing to influence public opinion and public policy in Van Diemen's Land from 1836 to 1847
Aboriginal writing produced on Flinders Island off the coast of Van Diemen's Land, Australia, between 1836 and 1847 portrays continued resistance and attempts to influence public opinion and government policy. The journal, petition to Queen Victoria, private letters and colonial press coverage document the tumultuous existence Van Diemen's Land's surviving Aboriginal people endured. Leximancer software and a manual content analysis are used to identify the key themes and communication devices existing within the documents. Applying a typology of public sphere characteristics over the content analysis provides evidence of the existence of a subaltern Aboriginal public. This paper concludes that the Flinders Island people adopted European communication structures to overtly and covertly resist colonial domination and to exert control over their own lives. The documents and events surrounding their production suggest that the surviving people, despite being from different tribes in Van Diemen's Land, formed an Aboriginal subaltern public through which they took a unified stand against colonial oppression.